THE normal hubbub of tourists visiting Christ Church Cathedral fell silent yesterday as serving soldiers and veterans gathered to commemorate the start of the First World War.
The cathedral played host to two remembrance events as Oxfordshire marked 100 years since Britain declared war on Germany.
In the morning, a small group gathered for the Turning the Pages ceremony in the military chapel when the names of 20 fallen soldiers from Oxfordshire’s local regiments were read out.
Then, last night, a candlelit vigil was held with readings and prayers. Jim Lewendon, the retiring chairman of Oxfordshire Royal British Legion who served in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and as a gunner with the Royal Artillery, read the Exhortation in the morning.
The 85-year-old said: “Today was very good and there was a nice turnout.
“There were some people today that we haven’t seen before.
“I think it is very important to remember the First World War because it makes you realise that we lost thousands of lives in Oxfordshire.”
A total of 5,878 soldiers from the 17 Battalions raised by the Ox and Bucks died between 1914 and 1919.
Ten of their names were read out by Corporal David Phillips, 48, of 7th The Rifles, the successor regiment to the Ox and Bucks.
He said: “It was a very simple but moving service. Both my grandfathers fought through the war so being able to have a link to them on this day is a very big thing.”
The names of 10 soldiers from the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, also known as the Oxfordshire Yeomanry, were also read out and the assembly calls of both regiments rang out, courtesy of a lone bugler.
The assembled group then kept two minutes of silence.
Canon Roland Meredith, who led the service, said: “I think these services are very moving and I am impressed by how many people came.’’ Terry Roper, 65, of Barton, who was a major in the Royal Green Jackets, the successor to the Ox and Bucks regiment, helped organise the event.
He said: “My grandfather was in the Ox and Bucks and he fought in the Boer War and the First World War so we have got quite a family affinity and I’m extremely proud of them.”
A hundred years ago today, Britain entered the First World War and we are marking that centenary to honour those who served, to remember those who died, and to ensure that the lessons learnt live with us forever. It is right to remember the extraordinary sacrifice of a generation
PM and Witney MP David Cameron
I was watching a TV programme which had interviews with soldiers and it brought home the sheer horror of what they were involved in. They thought they would be home for Christmas and it would be a jolly but it wiped out a generation of young men
Brian Crossland, 67, Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire
At the Ashmolean, we are marking the centenary with a commemorative display in our Money Gallery. As a museum director, I have been very moved and pleased to see the creative and thoughtful responses to the centenary made by the country’s arts and heritage organisations
Prof Christopher Brown, director of the Ashmolean
In my family there are lots of military connections so I always think about that. It’s important to keep in mind. If it wasn’t for the First World War soldiers I don’t know where we would be
Ryan Dodds, 26, Oxford
When I look back on it, for me, it’s always one of the saddest chapters in the whole of British history. I think there was never a war which was so futile
Today is also an occasion to reflect on how politicians and political systems have to continuously work to try to ensure that never again do we find ourselves in major wars or conflagrations
Sir Tony Baldry
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